Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Meaning of America in World History for u. S. Evangelicals

It is very telling that evangelicals in the [u]nited States will strenuously refuse to accept the presence of God in the holy relics of saints, the Holy Mysteries, holy water, and so on, but they will readily accept the presence of God in anything that has to do with American political life:

Evangelist Franklin Graham said that prayer — and God’s answer to it — helped Donald Trump and Mike Pence pull off “the biggest political upset of our lifetime.”

Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, said he has traveled across the United States this year, holding prayer meetings at each state capitol. “I could sense going across the country that God was going to do something this year,” Graham told The Washington Post. “And I believe that at this election, God showed up.”

On Thursday, a day after Trump was elected to become the nation’s 45th president, Graham said God had answered their prayers.

 “Did God show up?” he wrote on Facebook. “In watching the news after the election, the secular media kept asking ‘How did this happen?’ ‘What went wrong?’ ‘How did we miss this?’ Some are in shock. Political pundits are stunned. Many thought the Trump/Pence ticket didn’t have a chance. None of them understand the God-factor.”

 . . .

Since this idea of America being especially favored by God is so deeply ingrained in American evangelicals, it needs to be explored more thoroughly.  To do so, we will examine the text of an address (‘The Continental Divide’) delivered by Pastor Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church (in Texas) on 23 Oct. 2016.  It was aired at least twice by American Family Radio prior to election day and has received more than 300,000 views on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwTAQpYhkug) as of 14 Nov. 2016, so it may safely be taken as something most evangelicals would agree with.  All quotes from this talk come from http://dentonbible.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Continental-Divide.pdf, opened 14 and 15 Nov. 2016.

In some of his opening remarks, he says,

We are historically rare. We can be directly involved. We can “vote.” We have a say. We have what virtually none have had throughout history. Until 1776, no one had a say in their rule.

This is an absurd statement.  Voting has been present in many places and in many ages of world history:  the ancient Greeks and Romans, Russian villages, Old English folkmoots, the election of an abbot by a monastery’s monks, etc. 

He goes on:

But . . . From 1776 to 1848, in just 70 years, most monarchies were gone. America had started something! France will follow. We were an idea whose time had come, as throughout the world men had had a gutful of the irresponsible authority of kings. Of authority bestowed through birth not merited through character.

It is good to have an ideal of good character in rulers, but his declaration that the revolutions that swept away the monarchies from Europe are somehow a blessing is entirely wrong.  In the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars that followed, in these alone upwards of 2 million people suffered and died.  And in the other revolutions that shook Europe up till 1848 many more thousands would do likewise.

Is the ‘right to vote’ really worth such a great loss of human life, not to mention the destruction of cities, death of animals, and so on?

But this is not the worst of it.  Vladimir Moss in his An Essay in Universal History, Part 3 (http://www.orthodoxchristianbooks.com/downloads/595_AN_ESSAY_IN_UNIVERSAL_HISTORY_PART_3.pdf, 2016, opened 12 Nov. 2016), pgs. 12-3 and 21, points out

The spirit of the Revolution was “inexplicable” to Tocqueville precisely because it was not human, because it was a spirit from hell. It was from hell, because it was against God. For the essential conflict between the revolutionaries and the ancien regime was a conflict between two ideas of the origin of authority: between the idea that it comes from above - ultimately, from God, and the idea that it comes from below - ultimately from what the Masons called "Nature", but which more religious called Satan, the original revolutionary.

King Louis XVI stated the Christian principle: "I have taken the firm and sincere decision to remain loftily, publicly and generously faithful to Him Who holds in His hand kings and kingdoms. I can only be great through Him, because in Him alone is greatness, glory, majesty and power; and because I am destined one day to be his living image on earth."9 This firm, but humble statement of the doctrine, not so much of the Divine right of kings, as of their Divine dependence on the King of kings, was opposed by the satanic pride of the revolutionary faith. "The Revolution is neither an act nor a fact," said De Mounier. "It is a political doctrine which claims to found society on the will of man instead of founding it on the will of God, which puts the sovereignty of human reason in the place of the Divine law."

This anti-theistic character of the French Revolution was confirmed by the great Anglo-Irish parliamentarian, Edmund Burke: "We cannot, if we would, delude ourselves about the true state of this dreadful contest. It is a religious war. It includes in its object undoubtedly every other interest of society as well as this; but this is the principal and leading feature. It is through this destruction of religion that our enemies propose the accomplishment of all their other views. The French Revolution, impious at once and fanatical, had no other plan for domestick power and foreign empire. Look at all the proceedings of the National Assembly from the first day of declaring itself such in the year 1789, to this very hour, and you will find full half of their business to be directly on this subject. In fact it is the spirit of the whole. The religious system, called the Constitutional Church, was on the face of the whole proceeding set up only as a mere temporary amusement to the people, and so constantly stated in all their conversations, till the time should come, when they might with safety cast off the very appearance of all religion whatsoever, and persecute Christianity throughout Europe with fire and sword. This religious war is not a controversy between sect and sect as formerly, but a war against all sects and all religions."

 . . .

Burke agreed with the Catholic monarchist Joseph de Maistre in calling the revolution “satanic”. And, as we have seen, he called the war that broke out between revolutionary France and Britain in 1793 “a religious war”. For truly, the war between the revolution and its opponents was a religious war, a war between two opposed ideas of who rules human society: God or the people. Moreover, it was war against monarchy in all its forms: “No Monarchy, limited or unlimited, nor any of the old Republics, can possibly be safe as long as this strange, nameless, wild, enthusiastic thing is established in the Centre of Europe.”

Likewise, with the later revolutions, he draws our attention to some noteworthy things (pgs. 346-7):

L.A. Tikhomirov writes: “Revolutionary agitation between the years 1830 and 1848 was carried out mainly by the Carbonari and various ‘Young Germanies’, ‘Young Italies’, etc. In the Masonic world before 1848 something powerful, similar to 1789, was being planned, and preparations for the revolution went ahead strongly in all countries. In 1847 a big Masonic convention was convened in Strasbourg from deputies elected at several small conventions convened earlier… At the convention it was decided to ‘masonize’ the Swiss cantons and then produce a revolutionary explosion at the same time throughout Europe. As we know, movement did in fact follow, with a difference of several months, in a whole series of countries: Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Milan, Parma, Venice, etc. Reformist ‘banquets’ laying the beginning of the revolution in Paris were organized by the directors of the Masonic lodges…”

What is a Christian pastor doing praising these unChristian revolutions?

But there is more to consider. 

And in the place of monarchies there arose constitutions. Official obligations and restraints set forth in writing through theologically informed reason, an absolute law, outside of man, by which he must be ruled, and to which rulers were accountable. A constitution - the incarnation of just rule in paper and ink
−administered through representative leaders
−placed there through an informed majority
−who voted for those they believed the wisest and best of men, whose job was to follow this law.
−Or as Mr. Lincoln said, “A government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
−A leadership bestowed through character not conception.

There is much that could be said about all that, but we will only comment on a few things. 

First, it is fine to desire rulers who respect the law, but trusting in ‘paper and ink’ to make them rule justly is doomed to failure.  It shows the Enlightenment optimism of the constitution’s framers in the ability of man’s reason to solve man’s problems: 

And Revolutionary leaders had an immense confidence in their ability to define exactly how personal actions caused the effects seen in political conflict and public conditions.  This confidence was part and parcel of the Enlightenment’s belief that human nature and human relationships were open books which the enlightened could read as clearly as Sir Isaac Newton had read the secrets of physical nature (Noll, Hatch, Marsden, The Search for Christian America, Expanded Edition, Helmers & Howard, 1989, p. 84).

Reading through The Federalist Papers one will see those statements by the three authors justified many times over.

Second, about Mr Lincoln’s formula ‘a government of the people, by the people, and for the people’ is a rejection of God’s sovereignty over man.  Where in that formula is there any room for God at all?  It mightily breaks the ‘chain of being’ (one of Wendell Berry’s favorite images), or the hierarchy, that God has established in creation:  from God, to angels, to monks, to men in the world.  One cannot praise both Mr Lincoln’s statement and the ‘theologically informed reason’ that supposedly birthed the constitution.  They are contradictions.

As for ‘the people’ choosing leaders by elections, one may see the fallacy of this dogma of democracies and republics in something Ron Paul said shortly after Donald Trump’s election:

“We look at the president, we look at what he said, we look at what he might do when you look at his advisors,” Paul said.

“But quite frankly there is an outside source which we refer to as the ‘deep state’ or the ‘shadow government’.” Paul warned.

“There is a lot of influence by people which are actually more powerful than our government itself, our president,” the congressman said.

“Yes, Trump is his own guy, more so than most of those who have ever been in before. We hope he can maintain an independence and go in the right direction. But I fear the fact that there is so much that can be done secretly, out of control of our apparent government and out of the view of so many citizens,” Paul urged.

Back to Pastor Nelson:

The system has problems, but I prefer it to monarchies because we don’t have bloodlettings.

Again, he betrays a lack of historical knowledge.  It was not until the era of modern democracies and republics (which the u. S. helped usher in), with their powerful, centralized governments, driven by demonic ideologies like ‘the rights of the people’, that massive wartime casualties became a reality.  Under monarchs, even so-called ‘absolute monarchs’, there were too many independent centers of power and loyalty to allow such large armies to gather and slaughter one another (Donald Livingston, ‘The Founding and the Enlightenment’, Vital Remnants, Gary Gregg II, ed., ISI Books, 1999, pgs. 266-7). 

Furthermore, the u. S. government has been one of the most war-hungry in history, being involved in some battle or another for 222 out of 239 years of her existence:

Pastor Nelson:

With the exception of our Civil War where half our country killed the other half over a breach of the Constitution concerning inalienable rights.

The breach of the constitution was the North not letting the South deal with the slavery question in her own way, in her own time.  There was no clause in that document which demanded an immediate end to slavery in the States, only the shrill cries of radical abolitionists.  To say that the constitution, implicitly or explicitly, allowed the North to act on its ideological belief that slavery anywhere, at any time, is an evil that must be eradicated, is to grant radicals of all stripes the ability to force their beliefs on others through federal action, including those Pastor Nelson would probably find objectionable, like LGBT and abortion activists.  One must be careful when throwing around words like ‘inalienable rights’.  That is a game that those outside the evangelical camp can play as well.

Pastor Nelson:

And I am amazed at our constitution’s invention in Philadelphia in 1787. A group of 55 men replaced millennia of kings with a constitution in just 112 days and it has lasted for 229 years. And it had never been done before.

This completely overlooks the Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the u. S., which, considering the outcome of the Philadelphia ‘experiment’, deserve a much-needed second look.

And there is far too much pride here, so much so that it borders on idolatry:

15 The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.
16 They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not;
17 They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths.
18 They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them.

Source:  Psalm 135, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+135, opened 15 Nov. 2016, emphasis mine

Back to Pastor Nelson:

But another problem, just as dangerous, is that proper elected leaders demand an informed and wise voting public.

A proper standard must be present throughout the culture.

If not, an ignorant population will get what they deserve. 51% can be as terrible as a tyrant when they are misinformed.

So potentially, “universal suffrage” is dangerous. That is why public mandatory education and universal suffrage emerged at the same time in our country. The Horace Mann Common School movement began just after the Constitution. Every young person – future voters – had to be educated in basic reading and writing, in morals, citizenship and yes, the Bible as only a morally responsible people could select proper leaders. A people and a culture are reflected in their elected leaders.

Universal adult suffrage was not what the framers envisaged for the American republic.  Many were heartily in favor of property qualifications on voters.  One wonders if this is another ‘inalienable right’ that would have been worth another Civil War-like ‘bloodletting’ in the Pastor’s mind had property qualifications not been abolished by the States quite to his liking (which would probably have happened with Southern slavery, peacefully and gradually, if the North had been patient enough).

At any rate, Horace Mann’s common schools are nothing to brag about.  Neither he nor they are Christian:

 . . . Homeschooling now qualifies as a movement. It is certainly radical, in that it has taken a public stand, with money on the line, against the public schools.

It stands against the only American institution that can legitimately claim for itself this unique position: it is the only established church in the nation. It has a self-accredited, self-screened priesthood, as every church must. It has a theology. Its theology is messianic: salvation through knowledge. But this knowledge must be screened and shaped in order to bring forth its socially healing power.

Massachusetts was the last state to abolish tax funding of churches. That was in 1832. In 1837, the state created the nation’s first state board of education. It was run by one of the crucial figures in American history, the Unitarian lawyer Horace Mann. He believed that the public schools should perform much the same function that the established Congregational churches had performed for two centuries in Massachusetts. The schools would produce what the churches had failed to produce, a new humanity. They would transform sin-bound man by means of education.

This outlook is what R. J. Rushdoony called the messianic character of American education, which is the title of his 1963 book.  . . .

We appreciate Pastor Nelson’s attempt and that of evangelicals as a whole in the u. S. to defend the tradition that has come down to them, but, as is hopefully clear, there are serious defects in that tradition (it is in fact an anti-tradition, something that destroys rather than strengthens true tradition, which Southerners can attest to, who actually do have something of a pre-Modern tradition).  Unless they want things to decay even further than they have, they must look beyond the Rush Limbaugh view of history and reassess just where they are in light of the whole of the history of the Church and of the world.


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð!

Anathema to the Union!

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